Frugal Home Remedies for Cat Health Problems

Beware when using frugal home remedies for cat health problems. Some are good and some can be toxic. Theoretically, I support the use of home remedies for cat health problems but the Internet can mislead and what are purported to be natural and safe home remedies might in fact be dangerous for your cat.


If anyone has some good tips on home treatments/remedies for cats please leave a comment


The more you read about the cat’s metabolism the more you become aware that the cat can be extremely sensitive to natural products that we consider to be entirely safe.  We really can’t be careful enough when deciding to treat our cat at home in order to save on veterinary bills and also of course to try and minimise the use of conventional medications which are also toxic.  All medications are arguably poisonous but the benefits usually outweigh the detriments.

The trouble is, we do not know how many people employ home remedies to try and cure their cat of an illness but I know that webpages containing advice about home treatments are popular therefore my guess is that a lot of people avoid going to the vet to save money and use home treatments instead.

We don’t really know how successful these treatments are. We don’t know how many home treatments resulted in cats becoming ill because of the treatment and not because of the original illness. The Internet does not help us on this. The Internet can provide conflicting information or the information is rather misleading.  Sometimes the best information can in fact be found in the comments below an article about a home treatment because these are from people with first-hand experience.  I advise people to read comments.

“Do not use tea tree oil on dogs! Two days ago I put about two drops of tea tree on a sore on my Boston terriers neck. This was evening time. In the morning he woke up with paralyisis in his rear legs and was shaking.”

Petmeds.org states that tea tree oil should not be ingested and only used externally and only in diluted form. It is too tricky to ensure that this advice is complied with when treating cats.

Examiner.com

I was drawn to writing about the subject of so-called safe home treatments for cats when I bumped into an examiner.com webpage about frugal home remedies for treating cats with worms.  The treatment included using pure tea tree oil on your cat. The advice was to dab a small quantity of the oil on your cat. The author says it will kill all the fleas on your cat as well as the eggs.

My research indicates that this lady’s advice is potentially dangerous to a cat.  It is easy to fall into the habit of passing on what appears to be reliable advice on the Internet about home treatment without thoroughly checking whether the advice is sound or not.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil was at one time, and possibly still is, promoted as a useful home remedy for cat health problems. Apparently, it is a colourless or pale yellow oil.  It is promoted as a home treatment for cat skin problems and to control external parasites. The oil is used in lotions and shampoos at diluted levels which are considered safe by manufacturers. It works on humans and larger animals apparently but cats and kittens are not humans.

It is quite clear to me that there have been some fatalities due to the application of tea tree oil when amongst, other things, trying to control fleas in kittens.

Incidentally, it isn’t only about cats. It is said that tea tree oil is safe for use on dogs but when you read comments about the use of this naturally occurring oil on dogs you see an alarming number of cases where the dog has been paralysed by the application of this oil.

Then again, some people say it works very well on dogs. It may be to do with the concentration of the oil used. That said, you have to conclude that this product is potentially very dangerous and unless you know exactly what you’re doing it should not be used and because most people don’t know exactly what they’re doing when treating their cat or dog at home the commonsense conclusion is that tea tree oil should not be used for home treatment on cats or dogs.

At one time, there appears to have been irresponsible marketing of tea tree oil by manufacturers, reports Sarah Hartwell.  The manufacturers based their claims on anecdotal evidence which related to horses and people without considering the cat’s special metabolism and the cat’s poor ability to metabolise certain substances.

Sarah Hartwell reports that tea tree oil contains upwards of 38% terpinen-4-ol.  She says that datasheets on this substance indicate that it is harmful when swallowed and that it is used as solvent in products such as plastics and oil-based paints etc.. It is absorbed rapidly into the body and has toxic effects upon the human’s central nervous system.  This ties in nicely with the fact that it can paralyse dogs.

The active ingredients in tea tree oil are “cyclic terpenes” (similar to turpentine!)

Manufacturers, of course, want to sell products so they will downplay negative aspects of their products.  When the negative aspects of the product are fairly mild it may be acceptable to do this but when they can be severe it is irresponsible to market a product in this way.

I don’t want to go into heavy scientific details about tea in oil.  I simply conclude that on my understanding, it is unsafe and should not be used.

A list of the chemicals contained within this oil is rather perturbing. “Natural” does not necessarily equate to healthy or safe.

Essential Oils

There are essential oils which may also be dangerous to cats.  Sometimes people put a drop of these essential oils on the cat’s paw or use a diffuser. Sometimes (we don’t know how often) they can result in the cat being poisoned but the cause of the poison often remains undiagnosed by a veterinarian.  This is where the veterinarian is obliged to treat the symptoms rather than get to the bottom of the problem.

Essential oils can cause health problems with cats (for example liver damage). These are: oregano, thyme, eucalyptus,  clove, cinnamon, bay leaf, parsley and savory ( ref: Sarah Hartwell).

Cedar Oil

In addition, cedar oil was, and still might be, marketed as a flea treatment in domestic cats but it is apparently highly toxic to cats.  It is toxic when absorbed through the skin and can be absorbed through the lungs if it is used in a diffuser.

Absorption

One of the great problems for cat owners that we need to be reminded about when applying medication to the skin or fur is that the cat may and almost certainly will lick off the substance and ingest it. This transforms how the medication is being used. Also cats have a relatively thin skin and tea tree oil is readily absorbed into the body and the bloodstream. This makes it more dangerous.

Aromatherapy

On a positive note and in respect of aromatherapy for cats, hydrosols are apparently safe but is important to make sure that the manufacturer has not added essential oil to the hydrosol to make it stronger smelling. Hydrosols contain high levels of carbolic acid which have strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Martin Goldstein DVM a vet suggests a homemade cat flea treatment shampoo containing tea tree oil and ACV. The formula is: pet shampoo (8 ounce bottle) + 10 drops tea tree oil + 1 tablespoon of aloe vera. Shake well. Shampoo cat and wait up to 10 mins. Rinse with ACV diluted in water (1 tablespoon ACV + I pint of water) (ref: apple-cider-vinegar-benefits.com).

I am not sure about this because it does not state how strong the tea tree oil solution is. To me, it looks potentially toxic to cats.

Vinegar is essentially acidic. Acids are toxic to cats. This means pH greater than 7. Apple cider vinegar has a pH of 4.50 to 4.75 so should be okay (ref: bobbyshealthyshop.co.uk). This needs to be checked because this is recommended for use as a cat ear cleaner and the skin of the cat’s ear is thin. Substances can pass into the bloodstream easily via the ears. I’d have thought this should be a cautionary observation.

Associated: cats ear infection

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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